Readers’ Roundtable: Would You Give Up Your Dream Job if it Prevented You from Running?

Does your job make you feel like this?  Does a big PR?
Does your job make you feel like this? Does a big PR?

Joining the International Cinematographer’s Guild as an assistant cameraperson was like crossing the finish line of a marathon I’d spent nearly a decade training for.  My dream job was always working on camera crews, and I made it!  Not everyone who has a dream can say that!

Then, this spring, I trained for the New Jersey Marathon while working on a television show and two pilots.  Imagine averaging 13 hours, 5 days a week on your feet in the elements, carrying heavy things, barely having time to pee and almost always in a stressful rush to prepare for the next problem. Now imagine training for a marathon on top of that.  I had a great success at the marathon, but sacrificed performance at work because I was overtired and physically run down.

Now I’m at a juncture where I’m starting to move up on the ladder, and simultaneously started training for the NYC Marathon.  Bad idea?  Probably.  My experience training for New Jersey taught me that something’s got to give.  And honestly if it’s between filmmaking and running…I’m thinking it might be time for a career change.

But is that insane, to give up my dream career for running?  There are lots of other reasons, but at my core what I truly want is to be able to balance my work life with my other passions, including the marathon.

What would you do? Would you give up your dream job if you had to give up running to keep doing it?  As always, answer in the comments!

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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20 comments

  1. Hmm … Seems to me, my dream job wouldn’t require compromises. But, then, I’m in the market for a dream life, not a job – all of its elements playing well together.

    You can’t go wrong either way you choose; you’ll just reap different rewards and lessons. Enjoy!

  2. I would not give up a job without having a plan lined up that would allow me to pay the rent while chasing my running dreams. But your question is a great one. Serious running has changed me and changed what I want in life to where I am currently considering serious cutbacks in my financial commitments to preserve my ability to have plenty of time to run and enjoy active time in the daylight with my husband, daughter and dogter, even if it means living on less income. I absolutely love what I do, but am no longer willing to be a slave to my career if it keeps me from being able to enjoy the other things that I value. Keep us posted on your pursuit of your dream life!

  3. Tough decisions and one would hope that good job/running (or other non-professional passion) could be compatible. Not always the case. Thinking through the options as Caper says is important. Running is such a nebulous “thing” in our lives; we can see what happens when we’re doing well and when we’re injured, perhaps interrupted from running for months, maybe years. Does that mean not to change your life? Probably not but if a balance is found, likely better for both running and career. My younger son is in television production in LA, which, like your job, consumes him. His other passions, running, reading, new entrepreneurial project, are incompatible with his work commitment. He struggles daily on how to approach the panoply of interests that is his life. For now, he squeezes in the other non-work stuff with goal to keep moving toward his passions. Bumpy, yes, fearful, yes, challenging, yes, but knowing what you want and forging a path are key.

  4. One other thing I would say is to look at the time commitment required of the people who are already in the position where you want to be. Is that position compatible with running and other things you would like in life? If yes, maybe it is worth it to stick it out for a while to see if life balance materializes down the road. If no, it might make sense to start thinking about a career change.

  5. NOT insane! Fantastic! It sounds like you genuinely enjoy both sides of the coin, though, so that probably makes it a tough choice. If I was passionate about my job, I might have a hard time backing off so I could run/ride/hike/travel more. I’ve always liked my job, but I’m not career-minded, so I’m ok letting career-building take a backseat. Same with the hubs — he really likes his engineering gig and he’s excellent at it, but it’s the “everything else” that makes him truly come alive. You know, the stuff we only have time to do after 5pm on weekdays or on weekends and vacations. We’ve realized that we care far more about our lifestyle than we do about our paychecks or ladder-climbing potential. We’re frugal by nature and DINKS by choice, so we’ve spent a couple years focusing our budget, investments, and financial goals on early retirement. We only plan on working another 3-4 years before we call it quits on the normal 9-5 scene. There are just too many hobbies and adventures we want to pursue — waiting until our 50’s or 60’s to do them full-time doesn’t make sense for us. We want the energy and flexibility to be able to do all that now, and for many years to come. People say, “Oh, I’d be so bored if I didn’t have a career…” Well, that’s awesome! It’s great to hear about people who love their jobs enough to do them for decades. Not our thing, though. We don’t want to have to play the balancing/juggling game with careers and “everything else.” Living simply and retiring in your 30’s is considered “extreme” in our culture — financially as well as socially — but it’s really not insane. It’s “different.” Just like making a total career shift in order to do what you love isn’t the usual route. For some people, though, different is good. And not only good, but best!

  6. This is a tough one. I currently have a job that’s higher up in the career ladder than I’ve ever been. I work long hours, I have a one-year-old, and a husband who travels, but one of the best things about my job is that I also have flexibility to get my running and workouts in (as well as attempting to squeeze in some other hobbies and hopefully soon, some entrepreneurial endeavors).

    If my dream job came up and it didn’t allow that flexibility, I’d be hard pressed to call it a “dream job,” simply because a dream job for me includes the whole picture: the job itself, compensation, benefits, work/life balance, and other things that are important to me (like be able to work from home as needed or all the time).

    But this is a decision that’s as individual as you are. Each person has their own priorities and the hierarchy thereof, and those are all subject to change based on where you are in life and your career. Many years ago, I used to think my dream job was running a brick & mortar shop, but when I really looked at my priorities and what’s important, I realized that being tied to a shop like that was not what I wanted. It was a fun notion and one that I entertained for years, but ultimately, it would take away the freedom I need in my life.

    For me, personally at this point in my life, I wouldn’t take a job (or create a job for myself) that interfered with my commitments to fitness (or family or other side endeavors). Sometimes once you look at the bigger picture, you realize you really would be happier doing something different than what you originally thought.

    Best of luck to you!

  7. I think I would probably cut back on the running :/ I love running and all of that, but im not making money from running and it’s just something I enjoy. If my dream job needs my attention, then thats where my attention goes. it doesnt mean i give up running, just means i change it up and try something new!

    1. My response is the same as Mary’s. I have lots of hobbies and I’ll be happy to indulge in those instead of running. My interest in various things waxes and wanes depending on the circumstances.

      Many of the comments are conflating running with work/life balance. Running is a part of work/life balance, but it isn’t the same as the concept of work/life balance.

      For a dream career, would I give up running? Yes. Would I give up a personal life and devote myself to my career? No.

  8. Like some of the others have mentioned, a dream job to me includes one that allows for optimal work/life balance. An elder friend of mine once said that there is no such thing as a dream job. Rather, you find a job that you can tolerate, one that’s not too bad. I thought owning a business (last year) was where I wanted to be but the stress that came with that was overwhelming. Turns out, what I really wanted was a job that allowed some creativity, no work on the weekends, and stability in pay and schedule. If “fitting in” time for running becomes a chore then I know I’m unbalanced. Good luck!

  9. It sounds like you’re passionate about your job as well as your running, so I’m sure this feels like a tough decision. Hang in there!

    For the hubs and me, lifestyle and interests trump career. I have my MA in English, hubs has two engineering degrees, and we both have decent careers in fields we enjoy. Still, we took a serious look our lives about a year ago (much like you’re doing) and came to a clear conclusion: we “like” our jobs, but we *FREAKING LOVE* our free-time hobbies and adventures. They make us come alive. The jobs? They’re cool. And cash flow is cool. But, for the most part, the stuff we love to do doesn’t cost much. Not enough that we’d need to focus on careers and work for 30+ more years to afford it, at least.

    When we realized that we cared more about lifestyle than ladder-climbing potential, our whole perspective changed. We didn’t want to worry about balancing careers with “everything else” if we didn’t have to. And, it turns out, we DON’T have to. That’s the beauty of living simply. We’re uber frugal by nature and DINKS by choice, so we’re able to focus our budget/investments/financial sights on early retirement. REALLY early. Like, we only plan on working full-time for another 3-4 years before we call it quits on the career scene.

    We don’t want to wait until our 50’s or 60’s to fully pursue our interests. We want the energy and flexibility to be able to that now, in our early/mid 30’s, and for many years to come. And no, we don’t need millions of dollars to do what we love. Hence, we only need a couple more years of (very) calculated planning and we’ll be financially independent — free enough to not worry about work, or to be able to work part time/for peanuts, if a “dream job” scenario ever does present itself.

    Living simply, saving like mad, and retiring before age 35 is considered “extreme” in our culture–financially as well as socially. Some people even call it lazy and insane. I think what they’re really saying is that it’s too “different,” and it’s something they’d be uncomfortable doing themselves. Kinda like making a total career shift in order to do what you love! It’s not the usual route and isn’t for everyone. For some of us, though, different is good. You might find that to be true for you!

  10. I remember snapping that shot like it was yesterday! Love it!

    Anyway, a wise person recently asked me this question: “do you want to live to work or work to live?” Some people are truly career driven. Great! But I would say, at least for most of us here since we have a passion for a time and energy-consuming hobby, that we would all prefer the latter. I think most of us would be better off figuring out how we want to live and then choosing a job/career that would support that lifestyle. I did that when I quit my attorney job because it did not afford me the time I felt I needed to raise my children the way I felt best. But as my children grow and as they go off to school, themselves, I am starting to think about what’s next for me and I have a pretty good idea it won’t be a job that prevents me from doing the other things I love in life like raising my children or running. It can totally prevent me from doing housework though! Ha!

  11. It sounds like you’re passionate about your job as well as your running, so I’m sure this feels like a tough decision. Hang in there!

    For the hubs and me, lifestyle trumps career. We took a serious look at things about a year ago (much like you’re doing) and came to a clear conclusion: we “like” our jobs, but we *FREAKING LOVE* our free-time interests. That stuff makes us come alive. The jobs? They’re cool. And cash flow is cool. The stuff we love to do and the way we live doesn’t cost much, though. Not enough that we need to focus on careers for 30+ more years to afford it, at least.

    When we realized that we cared so little about ladder-climbing, our perspective changed. We didn’t want to worry about juggling careers and interests if we didn’t have to. And, it turns out, we DON’T have to. We’re frugal by nature and DINKS by choice, so we’ve been able to focus our budget/investments/financial sights on early retirement. We only plan on working full-time for another 3.5 years before we call it quits on “traditional” full-time careers. Why? Because we don’t want to wait until our 60’s to pursue our interests fully.

    Living simply, saving like mad, and retiring before age 35 is considered “extreme” in our culture – financially as well as socially. Some people even call it lazy or insane. I think what they’re really saying is that it’s too “different,” and it’s something they’d be uncomfortable doing themselves. Kinda like making a total career shift in order to do what you love! It’s not the normal route and isn’t for everyone. For some, though, different is good. You might find that to be true for you!

  12. Sorry, folks….you can tell I had to write and re-write my LOOOONG comment a billion times yesterday ‘cuz it wasn’t posting and kept disappearing…but then reappeared…. 🙂

  13. In some ways, it does seem nuts to pass up a dream job/career for a hobby. But I fall on the side of thinking that if the job/career doesn’t allow time for running, it’s probably not going to allow time for much else outside of work. For me, personal life will always trump career, but I’m just not career-driven at all.

  14. When life got in the way of my running, I went through a faze of feeling resentful. But, then I remembered why I ran in the first place and realized I didn’t have to train for long races to fulfill my needs. Without the pressure to fit in a three hour run, a speed run, a cross train day, etc, etc, I feel free to enjoy running for what it is. I love a little 5k at lunch or an hour up the mountain with the dog on the weekend! It isn’t “all or nothing.”

  15. All these are great responses, and it seems like the recurring theme is seeking a balance. I wish my job allowed for that!

    As it is, the long hours and physical intensity drain me, so that even on weekends I find it difficult to train or be social or basically do anything that doesn’t involve lying in my bed. The trade off is periods of time without any work at all, which sounds great, but is often an exercise in frustration when I go back to work after being “spoiled” by enough time for other interests. For now I’m making it work, but I think I have a big decision to make in the coming year!

  16. I’m super late commenting on this topic, but wanted to chime in as well. I’m on the other end a little bit right now – something had to give and that ended up being serious training. I’m okay with it (now) because I know it’s just a season of life and things can always shift in the future, and likely will. The wake-up call that I was not managing to do it all well was when I DNFed a marathon back in the spring. I was just juggling too many things.

    Running has been a part of my life for over two decades. I know that I can always come back to upping my training, but it’s important to me to meet my career goals as well, and that’s where my focus is right now.